Google Wave: Likes, Dislikes and Planned Changes

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I'm intrigued by the possible uses for Google Wave, which is why I've been writing about it even though I haven't actually tried it. (I hope that changes soon, as two people took pity on me and sent invitations from their Wave accounts. The suspense is killing me. It's like a very geeky Christmas.)


In reading about others' experiences, I've come across some features that sound unappealing and others that pose serious limitations, especially for business use. Some of the shortcomings, such as the inability to establish role-based permissions or controls, are similar to ones mentioned by critics of Google Apps.


Blogging on CMS Watch, Adriaan Bloem comments on "live typing," a feature I've seen mentioned elsewhere and am prepared to dislike. See, editors like to revise our writing (sometimes too much, natch) before showing it to the world. I find myself revising even on IM. So the idea of people being able to see what I type as I type it really bugs me. Bloem doesn't have much of a problem with it, though he found it "a bit unnerving at first." He writes:

... it's not unlike working on the same document in Writely (now better known as Google Docs); it's just slightly more polished. But honestly, how many people do you know that work on Google Docs simultaneously to produce actual, publishable work?

He found Wave's inclusion of threaded replies, which can be edited by any participant in a Wave, more confusing. He writes:

So it starts off as a simple enough thread (like many comments on blogs); then, suddenly, someone will edit your text and it becomes rather confusing. Who did that? (You'll have to watch the replay to see.) And why? (Is that a question you put in a reply, or edit in the same text?)

Here's a pretty big deal-breaker, at least for a lot of businesses: Anyone with a Wave account can add to or edit a Wave after it's made public. You can't save a Wave or even print it. "So what do you do with it once you're done, other than a regular copy/paste?" asks Bloem.


And Wave shares the same shortcoming as other collaboration tools: It relies on other communication methods to get people into the collaboration loop. As Bloem writes: "Jon had to chase us down via Twitter, mail, and IM to get us there." Like Facebook, Twitter and other Web services, Wave may be forced to use e-mail alerts to notify participants.


Several of these issues are addressed in a Financial Times piece based on an interview with Wave developers Lars Rasmussen, Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon. The developers say the next iteration of Wave will feature the ability to assign participants read-only or comment-only roles. Also planned, though not likely to happen soon, is the ability to assign moderation authority, so only information approved by a moderator or moderators gets posted into the official conversation. Another planned feature: the ability for users to control which Waves are pulled to the top of their conversation. Currently, Waves rise to the top every time something new is added.


Get used to the live typing, though. The developers acknowledge it can be a distraction, especially with large groups, but say it will remain in Wave because users adjust to it readily. As for the complexity, which has been mentioned by ZDNet's Jason Perlow and others, here's the developers' take:

We weren't trying to hit something that you could learn in an afternoon. We were trying to build a tool that will be with you for many hours each day. You can even imagine in time people will be teaching courses in Wave.

"Many hours each day?" There's that always-on or nearly always-on aspect that makes me a little nervous about Wave, as I wrote last week.